Blog: How to be a male ally for survivors of sexual assault or harassment

Note: A number of blogs and articles have been included on Leap21 to provide a glimpse into important ideas and discussions taking place with respect to sexual violence.

By Melissa Batchelor Warnke: how to be a male ally to survivors of sexual assault and harassment

This advice is not just for men. Many women and non-binary people who have not experienced sexual violence can also be thoughtful allies. This piece is for them too.

Here are six ideas to start:

1. Reflect on your own story.

What have you been taught about sex, rape, sexual harassment, gender, power and privilege – formally and informally? Engage in discussion with other men who are not survivors.

2. Recognize that not all survivors are public.

For every #MeToo tweet or Facebook post you see, recognize that there are many, many other survivors who do not identify themselves. Every person you speak with could be a survivors, or the parent or partner of a survivor.

3. Listen to and support people who identify as survivors.

Not sure what to say? A message that doesn’t require a response is a good entry point, just a heart or ‘sending love. I’m here for you. I believe you.’ Absolutely do not push anyone to tell you their story in greater detail than they have offered. Ever.

4. Engage in conversations gently and humbly.

Ask for permission to initiate any conversation about sexual violence. Meet people where they are, and pay close attention to the body language and voices of those you speak with. If you see you are making the person you are speaking with uncomfortable, gently end the conversation.

Ask for mutual goodwill and share that, in the process of educating yourself, you may make mistakes in how you talk about sexual violence. Be open to criticism and feedback. Work hard to not be defensive. Do not center yourself in the conversation, humble brag, or act like a hero for doing this work. It is your responsibility, not your bragging right.

5. Let people who work with you or for you know that you have their back.

Call a meeting (if you’re the boss), talk to your colleagues one-on-one, or send an email telling people you work with that you are there for them if they are dealing with sexual abuse or harassment in your workplace. Let them know you will be a confidential ear (unless you are a mandated reporter) and a source of support. Reiterate your office’s policies on sexual harassment. Keep it short. Follow up

6. Move your feet.

Your plan of action will be completely different from someone else’s plan — there are many paths to dismantling sexual violence — and it will look like your life. Reflecting on the gaps and inconsistencies in your own story is an excellent way to identify where you can make personal change. Identify your particular skills, and reach out to organizations that support survivors of sexual harassment and violence to see if you can volunteer your skills for them. Fight for policies that support women who are survivors of sexual assault, including at your workplace, in in our healthcare system, and in our legal system. Vote for politicians who champion policies that will support survivors.

Further Reading & Resources